Chondrosarcomas is a group of rare bone cancer tumors that begin in your cartilage. Cartilage is soft connective tissue that allows movement between your bones and joints. The most common treatment is surgery to remove cancerous tissue and bone. Approximately 60% to 70 % of people who have the most common form of chondrosarcoma are alive five years after diagnosis.
When healthcare providers talk about chondrosarcoma, they’re referring to a group of rare bone cancer tumors called sarcomas that begin in your cartilage. Cartilage is the soft connective tissue that allows movement between your bones and joints.
Chondrosarcomas can grow from cancerous tissue on your bone or from benign bone tumors that have become cancerous. This cancer can appear anywhere you have cartilage, but it typically forms in your pelvis, sternum, ribs, arms or legs.
The most common treatment is surgery to remove cancerous tissue and bone. Conventional chondrosarcoma is the most common form of chondrosarcoma. Approximately 60% to 70 % of people who have conventional chondrosarcoma are alive five years after diagnosis.
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Chondrosarcoma affects men and women equally, and typically appears in people between ages 40 and 75. The average age at diagnosis is 51.
No, it’s not common. Approximately 600 people are diagnosed with chondrosarcoma each year.
There are several types of chondrosarcoma:
Osteosarcoma starts in the bone and typically affects children. Chondrosarcoma starts in your cartilage and typically affects adults. Healthcare providers may treat chondrosarcoma with surgery alone and treat osteosarcoma with chemotherapy and surgery.
Like most bone cancers, pain in the bone and swelling is the most common symptom of chondrosarcoma. Other symptoms can be:
Researchers are still investigating what causes bone cancers such as chondrosarcoma. They have linked chondrosarcoma to the inherited condition Li-Fraumeni syndrome. People with certain medical conditions have an increased risk of developing chondrosarcoma. These conditions include:
To diagnose chondrosarcoma, your healthcare provider will often first use X-rays to view images of your bones. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT (computed tomography) scans provide more detailed images of the areas around your bones and are usually obtained before any treatment.
To confirm the diagnosis, your healthcare provider will perform a biopsy, where a small piece of tissue is removed from the bone to be examined under a microscope. Pathologists then look at your tissue under a microscope. This process is sometimes called histology and is done to learn more about your chondrosarcoma. For example, pathologists confirm your tumor started in your cartilage instead of spreading to there from another area in your body. They also determine your chondrosarcoma’s grade, which is a measure of how fast your tumor is likely to grow. This information helps providers set your treatment plan.
Chondrosarcomas are given a grade from 1 (I) to 3 (III). The lower the grade, the slower the cancer tends to grow and the less likely it is to spread:
Healthcare providers typically use surgery to treat chondrosarcoma. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about your treatment options, including surgery that might require removing a limb. Here are some options your provider might recommend:
Chemotherapy is not typically used to treat chondrosarcoma. That being said, your healthcare provider might use chemotherapy to treat more aggressive forms of chondrosarcoma, like dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma.
Researchers have linked some medical conditions to an increased risk of developing chondrosarcoma. Talk to your healthcare provider about your family medical history so they can assess your risk and recommend steps to monitor your health.
There are several types of chondrosarcoma, each with different prognoses or expected outcomes. Ask your healthcare provider about your specific diagnosis and prognosis.
Living with chondrosarcoma usually starts with recovering from treatment. Chondrosarcoma is often treated with surgery that might involve removing a limb or section of a limb to remove your cancer. Once you’ve recovered from surgery, you’ll need to start a rehabilitation program to help you adjust to using a prosthetic limb or living with an internal prosthesis.
You might need help adjusting to other changes, such as how you go about your everyday life or changes in your appearance. Your healthcare provider will have suggestions for physical, occupational or mental health therapies that might help you cope with theseh challenges.
You should see your healthcare provider if you notice changes in your body that might be signs your cancer has returned.
There are several types of chondrosarcomas, some of which have different prognoses or expected outcomes. Here are some questions you might want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Being diagnosed with the rare bone cancer chondrosarcoma is the first step on what could be a long road to recovery. That road will probably start with surgery to remove your cancer and then rehabilitation to recover from your surgery and other treatment. While this cancer can be treated successfully, it will change your life. You might need help coping with physical and emotional challenges. Talk to your healthcare provider about the challenges you’re facing. Your provider and their team know what you’re going through. As you start your journey, they will be with you every step of the way.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/16/2021.
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